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DAY 22: THE GLORY OF THE LORD ACCORDING TO HEROD

हेरोदेस के अनुसार प्रभु की महिमा

Hindi | Matthew 2:3–20

 

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

– Matthew 2:3

 

As December brought in the mild winter chill, the figurines, disfigured and chipped from years of use, made their way into our living room. Setting up the nativity scene was a common Christmas tradition in our home. The familiar faces of baby Jesus, His parents, the shepherds, the angels, the three wise men and the well–behaved yet disproportionately–sized farm animals would surface out of the old shoebox. Unwrapped out of last year’s newspaper, they were gently wiped down and placed in and around a cardboard shed. Sometimes, we would add a little cotton on the shed’s roof. Even though snow was alien to us, it was an attempt to mirror the white landscapes from the greeting cards our relatives from the western side of the world sent us each year. Every year, the objective was simple: to set up a scene that best represented “all is calm, all is bright” so that baby Jesus would “sleep in heavenly peace.” However, as much as we try to set up this idyllic yet unrealistic scene, our version of the nativity is starkly different from Matthew’s version. It is missing a very important character: Herod.

Why is Herod missing? That “Christmas feeling” we attempt to recreate each year helps us escape the painful reality of life in this world. As one living in a country where Christianity is a minority religion, Christmas is a time to freely celebrate and proclaim the good news of Christ. It is an escape from the hostility, the violence, the uncertainty that surrounds us each day, a time to enjoy some hot chocolate around the Christmas tree. Why spoil the “Christmas feeling” by bringing in Herod? Wouldn’t he just disturb the peace?

In fact, the Gospel of Matthew reports that he did just that. On hearing the news of the coming of the true king of the Jews, the anti–king, Herod, was disturbed, and with him all of Jerusalem (Matthew 2:3). Why so? History recognizes the good side of Herod: a capable and competent leader, a military genius, and a master builder. Under his rule, Israel enjoyed prosperity, lower taxes, and a glorious, newly–renovated temple. Yet he also made the rich richer and the poor poorer and bribed his way through court for his numerous wrongdoings. Worse still, he had an ugly side that stemmed from his insecurity around the throne. Any threat to him being king usually led to someone being exiled or executed. It didn’t matter if the victim was his wife, his children, or other innocent children from his kingdom. So, when the Magi came seeking the true king of the Jews, the people expected the worse.

Herod represents almost everything that is wrong and frighteningly true about our world: immoral and power–hungry leadership, economic disparity, unjust social structures, corrupt legal systems, religious extremism and apathy, all leading to the oppression of the weak and vulnerable. We squirm at the thought of Herod killing all those male children, yet according to a report from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in 2020, female infanticide and sex–selective abortions led to the death of over 140 million girls below the age of five, 40 million of those in India alone.1 Our world is not any different from the world in which Herod ruled.

This is the world into which Jesus was born. His first cries for life soon merged with the eerie atmosphere of threats of His death. Despite this, on the first Christmas, God took on real flesh and blood. God didn’t try to escape a world where Herod ruled, but He chose to engage it in order to conquer it. This gives us hope. In a world where Herod was real, God also is real.

As tempted as we are to recreate a Christmas that is devoid of Herod, sooner or later we must acknowledge his domain. Like the Magi who appeared in the courts of the anti–king Herod, we, too, are presented with a choice between two competing realities. Despite an awareness of the real darkness that surrounded them, they chose to pursue the true light. For, as John wrote, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4–5).

We have been given the light. Though we have reason to fear, we also have reason to trust in God. Our fears are real, but the object of our faith is real, too. In a world where Herod and those like him disturb, divide, and destroy, we can live in the assurance that our God continues His work to bring the peace we long for.


J. GEORGE
Bangalore, India

J. George is a PhD candidate through Maylon College in Brisbane, Australia, and a mentee of Langham Scholar Dr Havilah Dharamraj at the South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACS) in Bangalore, India, where he teaches in the department of Practical Theology.

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